By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Although the qualifications for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have not been completed, with less than three weeks to go until the Opening ceremony on August 5th, some countries are announcing their teams. Brazil as the host nation will have the largest delegation in its history of the Olympics – with 462 athletes, 209 women and 253 men.
The Olympic host nation is generally given an automatic qualification in each sport, and Brazil is prepared to make the most of the opportunity. Before 2016, the largest team Brazil brought to the Olympic Games was at Beijing in 2008, when 277 athletes (132 women and 145 men) competed.
According to the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB), the registration of athletes was made yesterday (July 18th) in the Olympic Village Rio 2016. “We closed an important stage in the preparation of the Brazilian delegation. It was a long meeting where we did not let any detail pass,” said the head of the Brazilian Mission, Bernard Rajzman, on the COB’s website.
The individual sports that are bringing most of the Brazilian competitors are; athletics (67) and swimming (33). The team sports that are helping to break the record of athletes are; handball (28), water polo (26) and football (36).
Among the members of the Brazilian team are some established Olympic powers. The Olympic champion gymnast on the rings, Arthur Zanetti is one of them. Yane Marques, in the modern pentathlon won the bronze at London 2012, and has a good chance to repeat the top performance in Rio.
In speed canoeing Isaquias Queiroz is another athlete expected do well. In judo, Brazil has the Olympic champion Sarah Menezes returning to defend her gold medal that she earned at the London 2012 Games. In addition, the Rio 2016 Games may mean redemption in the pole vault for Fabiana Murer who is another candidate for gold, despite experiencing problems in Beijing and London.
Brazil is also putting medal hopes in team sports, both male and the female competitions. Volleyball, football (soccer) and beach volleyball always yielded placement at the podium. In 2012 the Brazil women’s volleyball team took home a gold medal with a victory against the United States. Brazil men’s football lost to Mexico and left them with second place on the podium.
In some sports, Brazil will have representatives for the first time, such as badminton, trampoline gymnastics, field hockey, golf and rugby sevens. In these sports, golf is returning to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years and rugby sevens will make its Olympic debut.
The largest team at Rio 2016 will certainly be the USA, with qualifying estimates currently between 515 and 555 athletes. China recently announced it will send 416 athletes, its largest overseas delegation in Olympic history. Other teams leading in size are currently estimated as; Germany (371), France (369), Great Britain (331), Japan (326) and Russia (332) – although a recent state-sponsored doping scandal may disqualify Russia from the Rio 2016 games.
More than 10,000 athletes will compete in the first edition of the Olympic Games in South America. The battle to qualify, which began in 2014, is still going on and concludes shortly before the Games, when the official list of athletes will be confirmed.